Disney Dreamers Academy

When 100 high school students converged upon Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida, they not only experienced a life changing mentorship program, but they were encouraged to define their career paths while enjoying one of the world’s most amazing theme parks billed as “the happiest place on earth.” It was the 10th Anniversary of Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) with Steve Harvey & Essence Magazine.
From a record number of some 1000 applicants, a distinguished group of 100 high school students from across the US were selected for this unique educational and mentoring program. Identified as ‘Dreamers,’ the elite group of teenagers experienced an intensive four-day career inspiring program that exposed them to mentors who guided them towards their specific career goals. They were paired with professionals in their respected fields that taught them valuable career and life lessons, in a series of ‘Deep Dives.’ Additionally, DDAs special Resource Group of speakers were on hand for sessions, as well as ten Disney Dreamers Returning Alumni, one from each year, guided the group.

At the lavish Welcome Ceremony, held at The Circle of Life Theatre, a Proclaimation honoring the event was presented by the one and only Mickey Mouse. Tracey Powell, Vice President of Disney DeLuxe Resorts and Executive Champion of Disney Dreamers Academy welcomed the ‘Class of 2017.’ Tracey shared that this, the 10th Anniversary of DDA was a major milestone with some 1000 Dreamers, continuing strides, touching lives and working with their communities. “The power of a dream shines through every dreamer here and there to come. It all grew from one man’s dream – Walt Disney. Life changes not only for the Dreamers, but for our cast members. Just being a part of the Disney family, I am extremely proud and with my passion-job at DDA, I’ve gotten the opportunity to touch people’s lives,” said Tracey.

Yolanda Adams - At Disney Dreamers Academy
Yolanda Adams – At Disney Dreamers Academy
Singer Yolanda Adams who is in the Speakers Resource Group, in introducing the other group members said: “I want you to just bask in the moment – Think about 1000 applications, only 100 were chosen….understand our destiny is tied to one another. I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of this DDA weekend from the start. You make us proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we can part into you.” Other opening ceremony speakers; Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, Mikki Taylor, Editor-at-Large Essence Magazine and Princeton Parker, returning alumni and also member of the Speakers Resource Group, all reiterated the importance of the teens to recognize DDA as a time of Passion, Power and Purpose, as well as an opportunity for the Dreamers to broaden their perspective. “It is a mindset,”said Parker. “This is the opportunity to realize what you can do to create a better life.”
Disney Dreamers Academy
Disney Dreamers Academy
Event Host, T.V.Personality & Comedian Steve Harvey interacted with the Dreamers in private sessions, including an exclusive one-on-one with the female dreamers. Harvey received a standing ovation from the Dreamers, during a session where he encouraged them to show some respect and appreciation to their parents, to whom he told; “Don’t think your child is more special than the others, there are some talented and gifted kids in this room,” he emphasized. Turning his attention back to the Dreamers, Harvey said; “Your education is important, but, one other thing that is more important than education is your dream. There is not a place on earth that handle you better than Disney. Disney are experts at handling people with creative minds. Explaining your dreams is an easy thing, that was the beginning of it. What Walt Disney did was, he took it to another level. It’s a wonderful thing what this company does.” Harvey explained that no other company has invested in young people and has done what the DIsney company has done over the years with the Dreamers Academy.

During another informative session titled: “Conversations WIth…” at the World Showplace, East Hall, Mikki Taylor hosted a panel of celebrities including; Cam Newton, Kim Fields, Bryshere Gray, Tahj Mowry, DJ Nasty, Christopher Gray and Jaylen Bledsoe. Bledsoe who became a millionaire at 18 years-old, spoke of his journey and advised the teens; “You have to associate yourself with people who have been on the same journey as you. There is no single form of mentorship. To be successful you have to spend 50% on the business and 50% giving back. You also have to learn to be aggressively patient.” NFL Superstar Cam Newton told the Dreamers; “I was humbled so many times in life. I had to be good at something, that something for me was football, and that’s the gift God gave me. You also have to realize when you need help, you have to ask. As I evolve as a man the things I go through, others have gone through before.” Cam explained that teens need to understand the strategic plan of making the 24 hours of every day count. He stressed a good support system and quoted his father. “My father always said; ‘Show me your friends and I’ll see your future.'”

Kim Fields - At Disney Dreamers Academy
Kim Fields – At Disney Dreamers Academy

Actress Kim Fields advised the young people to stay focused and “Keep God first, with God all things are possible.” She quoted Proverbs 11-25, in terms of serving others. “Never forget that you are here to serve others. It will come back to you, if you put someone else first.” Thaj Mowrey added; “I ‘m a completely different person from 10 years ago. You have to allow yourself to grow and change. Keep learning something new and keep God first,”was his advise. Empire star Bryshere Gray told the Dreamers that when he became famous he lost all of his friends. He advised the teens; “Do your homework, be appreciative, stay respectful, stay classy. Fellows; stay respectful.”

Bryshere Gray - At Disney Dreamers Academy
Bryshere Gray – At Disney Dreamers Academy

DDA provided many highlights including empowering sessions with Dr Steve Perry, Chef Jeff Henderson, Jonathan Sprinkles, Sonia Jackson-Myles, Brandi and Karli Harvey, twin daughters of Steve Harvey conducted a ‘Style 101’ fashion session for the young ladies while Dr Alix Ellis hosted a ‘Image Remix’ for the young men.

Brandi and Karli Harvey - At Disney Dreamers Academy
Brandi and Karli Harvey – At Disney Dreamers Academy
The grand finale’ of Disney Dreamers Academy took the form of a gala Commencement Ceremony and Breakfast. Steve Harvey and T.V.Personality T.J. Holmes addressed the gathering. Vocal renditions by Yolanda Adams, special guest performer Patti La Belle, and a performance by the cast of The Lion King was the featured entertainment. The prestigious ‘Dreamer of the Year’ award was won by DreShawn Spearman of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Other special awards were presented to Cedric Beal who won the ‘Confidence Award.’ Rebecca Jean Louis won the ‘Constancy Award.’ WIlliam Williams was given the ‘Courage Award’ and Keon Hanley won the ‘Curiousity Award.’
The Cast Of The Lion King - At Disney Dreamers Academy
The Cast Of The Lion King – At Disney Dreamers Academy
Patti La Belle - At Disney Dreamers Academy
Patti La Belle – At Disney Dreamers Academy
At Disney Dreamers Academy
At Disney Dreamers Academy


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